Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Naughty Dog
Genre: Third Person Shooter / Adventure
Release Dates: November 19, 2007 (NA) / December 7, 2007 (EU)
Price: £9.97 (Amazon)
One of the first major hits as a PlayStation 3 exclusive back in 2007, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is the first volume in the well known by now series that follows the adventures of Nathan Drake as he seeks the lost treasure of El Dorado. The story begins after Nathan, a descendant of the explorer Sir Francis Drake finds his personal journal, filled with details on how to find the treasure of El Dorado. Accompanied by his closest friend and mentor Victor Sullivan and journalist Elena Fisher, he is determined to find the treasure, but since no adventure is worthy without challenge, the road to that point is filled with ancient puzzles, treacherous roads and Gabriel Roman's mercenaries constantly trying to stop you so he can secure the treasure for himself.
While some chapters feel more adventurous and riskier and others, the overall game is paced very well, constantly surprising you at the next corner. In the end ,the cast of characters is what makes Uncharted such a memorable experience, as Nathan Drake, a young adventurer meets the notions of responsibility and care as the story progresses, getting him closer to his partners and giving you more information on their background stories as you progress further, making them feel close to you and an essential part of your progress. There are certain moments that feel like an unneeded addition, as they only make the road to your goal feel longer, without offering anything new to experience, but there is probably a logical explanation for those as well, since with all that included the campaign can easily be finished in 8-9 hours.
Uncharted has some pretty cool ideas going for it and that's probably what made it so popular at the time, as it gives you a scale of exploration and adventure never seen before, giving you entire playgrounds to explore in order to solve a single puzzle, which is not as difficult as it sounds, since Francis Drake's journal has most of the puzzle solved for you already, and applying his solution to the enormous ancient structures ahead of you feels rewarding and exciting. On the combat side things are kept relatively simple, as Uncharted goes for the traditional cover based shooter mechanic, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does it so much that it will eventually become repetitive, as you will always head for the same pillar ahead of you, take cover, shoot down a few enemies, move on to the next pillar and repeat.
There are the occasional moments when cover based shooting will be replaced by a mounted gun shooting section, a moving car or in the worst case, the Skijet, which is probably the most annoying part of the entire game, since for some reason you cannot shoot and steer your Skijet at the same time, so each time you have to shoot someone, you'll have to stop the jet near a rock that can provide cover, eliminate the enemies and then continue on your desired path. Outside the combat, you will spend your time climbing structures, looking around for ammo or collectibles and solving the previously mentioned puzzles, something that is easy to do thanks to Francis Drake's journal, but still entertaining and challenging enough as you will have to make your way to the object that you need to move or button that you need to push, giving you plenty of opportunities to think on your own and look around for solutions.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune looks amazing, with rich forests, detailed structures and beautiful landscapes that together form an incredibly beautiful world for you to explore. Environments can become a bit repetitive after a while, as even with most of the action taking place on the same island, which might explain the similar forests and terrain, nothing can explain the same objects and structures all the way to the other side of the island. Characters feel alive as all the cutscenes have been created using motion capture technology and great animations add to the feeling of realism for those characters. Visual effects are an essential part of Uncharted's greatness, and they shine especially in massive explosions sections where they will cover the majority of the screen.
Aside from the motion capture technology that made the characters feel realistic, great voice acting contributes to that affirmation, with Nolan North taking the role of Nathan Drake, Emily Rose voicing Elena Fisher and Richard McGonagle providing the voice for Sullivan. Even some of the secondary characters such as Roman voiced by Simon Templeman have an incredible impact on the story as the voice feels natural to the character and well written dialogue make cutscenes feel like a very intense part of a good TV show. The soundtrack will stay with you as one of the most memorable elements of the game after you'll be done with it, and the sound effects only add to what is already a great ambient created by tunes and great dialogue.
Unfortunately the entire adventure can be completed in less than nine hours, but trophies, awards and collectibles will give you a reason to come back if you're looking to earn everything there is. Aside from that the game doesn't feature any form of multiplayer, so replaying the campaign until you earn everything you aim for is all you've got. There are some cool extras including artwork and behind the scenes videos from the making of Uncharted if you're into that sort of thing, so you're a completionist you might squeeze 20 hours worth of content from Uncharted.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is nowhere near a perfect game, but it's a great start for a franchise that has since spawned sequels and sold millions of copies, and a great adventure for any fans of the genre. A great story, fun gameplay elements and a beautiful world are enough words to make it worth playing, but don't expect anything breathtaking from this first title in the series.